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SHAIVAUGHN CRAWLEY

The Disconnect

The days blended in altogether for Tiffany, because her to-do list was always the same. Wake up, take a shower, get dressed, feed her two children, get them dressed, take them to school, go to work at 9, clock out at 6, pick up the children, then head to the hospital to see her Mama. Her mother has been in the hospital for 4 weeks now, as she’s been battling pancreatic cancer. After two unsuccessful surgeries, Tiffany decided to keep her mother in the hospital; she felt that the kids didn’t need to see such a gruesome scene. I mean, all they’ve ever seen was their Grandmama happy. All they’ve ever seen is their Grandmama strong. All they’ve ever seen is their Grandmama being the strong Black woman that she was, cooking for them, washing their clothes and giving them a place to stay at night, while their mother got drunk and partied all night long.  Besides, they’d always be able to visit whenever their mother deemed it appropriate to bring them by the hospital. Their father had died in a car accident while in route to the hospital while Tiffany was in labor— all they had were pictures and an obituary.

The role of the mother, and the role of the grandmother became severely distorted within the household. It had gotten so bad, that they eventually started calling their Grandmama, Mama. And when both their Grandmama and their ‘actual’ Mama would turn their heads in their direction, they would correct themselves by saying, “Sorry, we meant to call Grandmama.” For all they knew, the only mother that they had was the one who had actually attended their play performances. The one who signed off on their permission slips for their school field trips. The one who make sure that their Christmas was the best Christmas yet. The one who always baked cupcakes for their birthdays, and would make just enough for all of their classmates to partake in the festivities.  It was devastating to think about for Tiffany. “Two kids, one son and one daughter. Twins. Both of ’em are 9 years old and they don’t even know how to call their mama correctly.” It became too much to think about, so she’d tuck that in the back of her head and think on other matters.

But as much as she tried to tuck those thoughts in the back of her head, the would always return like a leg cramp, after many attempts at finding a position that would alleviate the pain. What was so natural for her mother, was so arduous for her. The kids just didn’t seem to connect with her the way that they connected with her mother. They didn’t laugh while they were being tickled by their grandmother the same way that they would laugh when their mother tickled them. In the car headed to work, Tiffany recalled how deeply enthralled their laughter were when they were being ticked by their grandmother, and when she tried to join in on the fun, they would look at her as if she’d lost her mind. She just couldn’t connect, and with that brought on jealousy and utter anguish. “What does Mama have that I don’t have?!”, she’d wonder. “What is it about her that they love so much?” “Don’t they love me too?”

Tiffany clocked out of work, picked up Zion and Alainah from school and headed for the hospital. THIS part of the day was the worst for her, because she absolutely hated the smell of hospitals. To her it always smelled like… like death. Like hopelessness and despair, dressed up as something else. Hospitals to her are the equivalence of a bouncy house on the outside, with corpses and bones on the inside. How could something so big and immaculate like a hospital be so dark and lowkey sinister on the inside? She took the elevator to the 8th floor and knocked before entering. She pulled back the curtains and sat in the chair beside the bed. The kids stood on the opposite side of the bed, observing their Grandmama’s slow, deep breaths while she beautifully slumbered. The room was rather small with dim lighting, and the window in the room permitted visitors to see a slab of brick wall–no clouds, no skyline, nothing but brick. She pondered on the negative effects of limited healthcare perks, and how where they place you and how they treat you, all depends on the kind of healthcare that you possess. She’d wished that she could’ve done more to secure a more decent room, but Mama had stated over and over that she was content with the room that she had, and that she was blessed to even have a room to be in.

“Mama, is Grandmama going to be alright?”, Zion asked. He looked on with a face that shared both curiosity and concern for her, and he stroked her leg as if somehow he could send healing power into her. “She’ll be A-Okay”, Tiffany replied with a smile. One thing that she knew about her children, was that they were great at detecting false hope or lies. So when she said it, she smiled really, really hard in hopes that they would find sincerity in her promise. Grandmama made some slow movements, and suddenly, her eyes popped open. She had a few seconds of confusion, but once her eyes focused, she smiled and said with delight, “Oh yes!, I knew my babies would come to see me.” Zion and Alainah both yelled “GRANDMAMA!” in unison, and hugged her tightly. She couldn’t move her arms, so she just took the hug that they gave her and smiled a big ‘ole smile. Her wrinkles on her Hershey, brown skin were emphasized, but Tiffany thought that she looked good anyways, despite her predicament.

“Grandmama, we thought about you all day”, Alainah said with a smile. “Yea, Grandmama, and we even told our teachers about you too”, Zion said. Grandmama, still smiling, replied, “Oh yea? Well, what did you tell them about me?”, she asked in response, looking rather nervous, as children are notorious for saying outlandish, embarrassing things. “We told them that you’re the best mother in the world”, Zion said, before then correcting himself by saying, “I mean Grandmama.” Tiffany leaned back in the chair and pressed her two lips together, as if to show some sort of expression of frustration or agitation.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. A doctor stepped in. He was a tall, handsome man, with skin the color of milk chocolate covered almonds, neatly kept dreadlocks that flowed down to his shoulders. He wore clear, rimless spectacles, something like the young looking ones that the college art hipsters like to wear. Tiffany was impressed with his size and his body type. He wasn’t muscular at all, and that was fine. She had always felt that muscular men were overrated, and how so many men today fought too hard to try to mimic those bodies just for the sake of mimicking. He smiled and said, “Good evening, Ms. Tiffany. I see that you brought the kids today.” He smiled, turned to the children and said, “I’m Doctor Hansberry. What are yall’s name?” Zion and Alainah both said their name, and he said, “you both have nice names! Zion and Alainah.” He said their names in such a way that caused them both to smile. He was a natural with children, and Tiffany could easily observe that. They smiled at him and laughed with him in similar ways that they laughed and smiled with their Grandmama. This made Tiffany even more jealous and concerned.

“HOW could they feel so comfortable with a doctor, a damn STRANGER that they JUST met not even 10 minutes ago, and yet they act so disengaged with their own MOTHER!”, she thought to herself. She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard Zion say, “We know Mama will be okay”, with a big grin. Alainah followed it up with, “He meant to say Grandmama.”

Dr. Hansberry smiled. Grandmama smiled. Zion smiled. Alainah smiled.

Tiffany did not.

—— To Be Continued——

 

 

 

2:12 AM

I can’t sleep, because I slept earlier today. All day. I have to be up in about 4 hours, which isn’t really a problem for me, because I’m used to it by now. But with the time allotted, I will type. Besides, it’s been a month since I last typed anything anyways.

Lately, I’ve been thinking [heavily] on a lot of things, but mainly loneliness and standing out. I’ve been thinking about purpose and meanings. Why are we here? What are we to do here? We’ve been given this task of “standing out” and “making a mark”. But what does that even mean? We all have passions, dreams, goals and talents. But, sometimes it seems like we are just in a long line, waiting for our name to be called. Waiting for that next “break”. Waiting for that “call up.” Waiting to “blow up.” And in the midst of thousands and thousands of people waiting in that same exact “line” as we are, we are given the challenge of standing out— somehow, some way, we have to be the only [or one of the few] noticeable ones in that line. Somehow, some way, we’ve got to prove that what we have is better or more significant than what the others have. We are thousands and thousands of fish in one big pond, and somehow, we’ve got to find a way to be the odd fish out.

In the middle of all of this, can come loneliness, frustration, confusion, heartache, depression and misery. So, I withdraw my game pieces from the playing board. I won’t play this game anymore. I don’t want to stand out just to stand out, and I don’t want to blend in either. So, I’ll just be all that I can be to the best of my ability.

I’ll just be all that I can be to the best of my ability.

I’ll take life by the horns and ride until I can’t ride anymore. I’ll go for late night walks and late night bike rides. I’ll read all of the books that I desire. I’ll love and love unconditionally. I’ll take my journal with me everywhere I go, and write for the hell of it. I’ll indulge quite heavily on Pumpkin Spice Latte’s, Cliff Bars, fruits, oatmeal and water. I’ll smile for no reason, cry without fear of embarrassment, and physically embrace whomever, womyn or men. I’ll dance too.

Scary is the day that we get so caught up with being the “different” fish in the sea, that we don’t even see the fishing net that is slowly creeping up behind us, aiming to capture us all.

“What is this generation to do?” -Mumia Abu-Jamal, Writing On The Wall

-@ShaiVaughnC

 

A Child’s Hustle 

“…they are not so much as lost as they are mislaid, discarded by this increasingly racist system that undermines their inherent worth.” -Mumia Abu-Jamal

Much love to the children today standing on the corner of Eastern & Linwood Avenues today, selling ice cold bottles of water for a dollar. They demonstrated to me the true meaning of hope & of persistence. I give it to them, because today ain’t no joke! It’s hot out here. They had to have been under the age of 12, about four of them total. They were all melanated, with smiles that could almost cure any disease. They were enthusiastic, overjoyed & determine to sell those waters. I didn’t get to ask them what they were selling the waters for, but I was excited for them nonetheless, and said, “what the hell” and gave ’em $2 for one bottle. Oh, the exuberant looks on their faces!

It’s these kids that we should be advocating with. It is these kids that we should be defending and encouraging and uplifting. The potential is expansive & explosive. The drive is evident & illuminating. The desire is aggressive & passionate. Those kids out there, they have it. We owe them the world.

I am tired of talking negatively about our children. Mumia Abu-Jamal says, “If they are lost, then find them.” And I have. They are on the football field playing football with a ball that’s half deflated, but could care less, as long as it serves it purpose. They are on the sidewalk riding their bikes, with tires that are half deflated, a chain that’s severely rusted and brakes that fail them with loud screeches & delayed reactions. But in spite of, they ride. They are on the basketball court, with the court being their backyard with a rim without a net (my personal favorite way to play basketball), but nonetheless, they play. They are in the library, reading books that are duck taped together with pages missing, yet still they read.

We’ve found the children.

The question is, what are we going to do with them? How will we invest in them?

I love a child’s hustle. But let’s not exploit them, let’s challenge them. Let’s build them up. And let’s boost their confidence. For they are all “future revolutionaries, with the historic power to transform our full realities.”

-@ShaiVaughnC

 

The Atmosphere is Shifting

Last night while walking down North Avenue towards The Crown, I saw the doors of a church opened with some folks congregating on the outside. They looked to be in their teens, early twenties maybe. There was a sweet melody humming inside. I instinctually wanted to continue walking, but the music was penetrating. I stopped my feet and made eye contact with one of the ladies standing on the steps. Before I could even ask her what was going on, she informed me that they were having midnight worship service, [something that happens every weekend], and that I could go in and check it out if I wanted to. I marched up the stairs and stood in the doorway of the sanctuary, I didn’t really have any intentions on staying. The sanctuary was BEAUTIFUL. It gave me a very old fashion vibe, somewhat gothic with a sprinkle of millennial and Christmas. There were Christmas lights [single colored] that ran up and down the steeples, but it didn’t interfere with the “gothic”/old aesthetic. There were a few people inside of the church, a few Black, a few white, a few others. Some had their hands raised and were completely into the worship music. The band was amazing too. There was a drummer, a pianist and I believe one or two singers. I don’t remember what the song was called and I didn’t even stay in there for more than 3 minutes. But at one point, they were singing something along the lines of what sounded like, “The atmosphere is shifting.” They repeated it over and over again, each time getting louder and louder, more vibrant and more intentional in driving home that point. “The atmosphere is shifting.”

It reminded me of my days worshipping back in South Carolina. It reminded me of working those summer camps with LifeWay Christian Resources, CentriKid and M-Fuge. It reminded me of a church that I attended that was just in my backyard, a millennial kind of church that met early Sunday mornings, but had to tear things down because the building belonged to an older congregation, and they simply weren’t having all of those lights and loud drums and guitar equipment in their services. I almost couldn’t even move. It was just too powerful of a moment.

But, I left encouraged! Coming off of the events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia and the clear forewarnings of a potential race war, I needed to hear/see something to lift my spirits. Those words that were sung still vibrate in the back of my mind even now. The atmosphere is shifting towards awareness, higher consciousness and a deeper understanding of life. “The atmosphere is shifting.” “The atmosphere is shifting.” “The atmosphere is shifting.” “The atmosphere is shifting.”

Indeed! Let it be so. The atmosphere is shifting.

Miracles 

“Not of a god of thunder, 

a god of silk, 

a god of the rich 

did the carpenter speak, 

but a God of compassion, 

of peace, of a day brighter

than today; 

a God whose miracles still work 

in the slave pens and shacks, 

in the projects,

in the hellish daily life of the poor 

and the oppressed—

not miracles 

like walking on waves, 

transforming water into wine, 

but miracles of love arising 

in hearts where it seems least 

likely to flourish–

here and there 

in the barrios and the favelas, 

among those who have least, 

beat hearts of hope, 

fly sparks of Overcoming.”

A rhyme for the times… 

Resisting this system 

Day by day 

It all must fall 

Somehow, someway. 

Resisting this system 

Day by day 

It all must fall 

Somehow, someway. 

Resisting this system 

Day by day 

It all must fall 

Somehow, someway. 

It Sure Feels Like It Sometime

I picked up a pizza dough to prepare to make a pizza. The customers (3 white men) were standing ahead of me, having a conversation. They were in deep conversation, because they didn’t even see me standing with the dough in my hand, waiting to hear what kind of pizza they planned on ordering.  Eventually, one of the three guys saw me waiting and said to the others, “hey hold up, I think that boy right there is ready for us to order.” 

Boy? Boy? BOY? Did this man really just call ME a boy? I wasn’t sure if I was hearing what I was hearing, so I let it go. When I had finished making their pizzas and they had left, I went to a co-worker and told her that I think that I had just been called a boy. She asked me, “what did you tell him?” I replied, “I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t sure if that’s what he had said, and I didn’t want to cause a scene for nothin”. She said, “okay. ‘Cause you don’t ever call no Black man no boy.” I said, “I know that’s right! If I was certain that that’s what he had called me, I would have told him that I’m a man and not no boy. I ain’t picking nobody’s cotton and I ain’t working on nobody’s plantation.” 

She said, “it sure feels like it sometime.” I said, “yea, say so. It sure feels like it sometime.” 

It sure feels like it sometime. 

Live To Be More: Gun Violence Reduction Strategy Review

live to be moreThis morning [primarily out of boredom], I read the Baltimore City Council’s Public Safety Committee’s Live To Be More Gun Violence Reduction plan. This plan is broken down into 5 different “pillars”. The five pillars are:

  1. Be More Preventative
  2. Stop Shooting & Start Living To Be More
  3. Be More About Jobs & Opportunity
  4. Be More About Neighborhoods
  5. Support The BPD To Be More

On page 2 of this strategy, the Public Safety Committee acknowledges that this proposed strategy focuses primarily on long term actions, but lists some immediate actions that can be taken to “save lives in Baltimore”. There are as follows:

  1. Adopt a new Baltimore Police Department patrol shift schedule by negotiating shift schedule out of union contract immediately.
  2. Adopt a recruitment and hiring plan to fill all open positions at BPD.
  3. Reinstitute Baltimore Gun Stat.
  4. Launch a Youth Safety Network.
  5. Expand Safe Streets.
  6. Support citizen led crime reduction initiatives.

On page 3 of this strategy, in big, bold, yellow numbers, it states that 662 people were murdered in Baltimore from 2015-2016, while 1304 more were harmed in non-fatal shootings. Their vision is a thriving Baltimore where all Baltimoreans have access to quality educational, economic and other opportunities that provide them all with the opportunity to live to be more. Their mission is to work with agencies and organizations across Baltimore to develop and put in place a comprehensive strategy that reduces gun violence in Baltimore.

Okay. Alright. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this strategy.

On page 6 of the strategy, it says on the top of the page, Be More Preventative: Attend To Be More. On this page, it speaks on chronic absence in schools. An estimated 18,000 Baltimore City public school students from kindergarten to 12th grade miss a month or more of school each year. Their objective, reducing the number of chronically absent students in Baltimore City by 2025 by 50%.

The plan failed to acknowledge how it would do such, while also failing to acknowledge the reasons behind such high absentee rates. Kids aren’t just missing schools just because.

On page 7 of the strategy, it says on top of the page, Be More Preventative: Youth Gun Violence Reduction. On this page, it states that between 2015-2016, 94 young people under the age of 18 were victims of non-fatal shootings. In addition to that, it also states that 15 young people are already suspects in Non Fatal shootings thus far in 2017. The objective as listed at the bottom of the page, is to “Reduce the number the number of Youth Gun Violence victims and suspects in Baltimore, and attack the spread [of] the disease of gun violence through families.

Why reduce the violence when we can completely get rid of it? Even if completely getting rid of the violence isn’t practical, it should still be something that we strive for. We shouldn’t be aiming to REDUCE violence, we should be aiming to ENDING violence. Changing our use of vocabulary  around violence and violence prevention makes all the difference as well.

Also, NOTHING on this page mentioned why people kill, why people feel the need to be in possession of a gun, and why people feel as though owning a gun comes with a certain level of importance and superiority in their communities. Not surprising!

On page 8 of the strategy, it says on the top of the page, Be More Preventative: Responsible Fatherhood. Their objective is to “increase the number of engaged fathers within families in targeted areas of Baltimore and assist them in maintaining/ improving relationships and parental actions.”

Cool. But The Public Safety Committee failed to give any statistics on how many Black men in Baltimore City are arrested over petty drug crimes, minor motor vehicle issues or made up/fabricated crimes from corrupt Baltimore City Police officers, all of which prevents the father from being home with their families. Again, not surprising.

Moving on.

I found page 12, entitled Be More Read More to be a helpful solution if implemented correctly. I feel that children [when given a good book to read], will put the time in to read. I’ve had COUNTLESS conversations with children who have shown interest in the books that I read, but hesitate to tell me what they are being forced to read in school. Not to mention, the books that I read are likely not even permitted in schools. I support Be More Read More [again, if it’s done right].

There was nothing stated in this strategy that proposed the ways in which they would push for better books in schools.

Page 16 of the strategy talks about Lead Abatement. NOW WE’RE TALKING. Their objective is to Increase Baltimore’s Lead Abatement by strengthening regulations and increasing inspection efforts. This is good. This is real, real good.

They will measure the performance of this implementation by the “number of inspectors hired and trained, the number of inspections completed, the number of regulations enhanced and the number of fines/notices given.”

Now, can we PLEASE be put under a State of Emergency? It is long overdue.

Page 22 speaks of Gun Crime Intelligence. Here’s a sentence that caught my attention:

“This focus however, should go beyond the typical targeting of bad guys with guns and include tracing violent guns, ammunition and those dealing them through a Gun Crime Intelligence Center.” Sounds good. But as we all know [or should know], gun distributing goes far beyond “citizens’.

Can you say, the police?

The proposal basically states that the Baltimore City Police [along with the ATF, the States Attorney Marilyn Mosby & her office, the FBI, the DEA, Maryland State Police, Baltimore County Police, Anne Arundel Police & a few others] will be responsible in tracking these guns. I am not saying that the police are responsible for EVERY gun placed on the street, but as of today, we STILL don’t have the full confidence that Baltimore Police destroys all confiscated guns. Baltimore Police also has a history of leaving their guns in mailboxes and on street corners and sidewalks. [Not even making this up, y’all. It’s real.] How can we trust these people to rid our streets of guns? Prisons are BUILT off of criminalizing Black and brown bodies. I don’t apologize for my beliefs, and I don’t apologize for my skepticism of the police and the FBI.

The objective of this proposal: “Enforcement and investigations of VROs that lead to state/federal prosecutions and jail time. Their performance measures are as follows: “Number of Federal Exile Prosecutions, Number of Group Indictments, Number of guns link to multiple violent incidents, Number of Group Convictions.”

[deep sigh.] Moving on.

On page 32 of this strategy, they discuss Neighborhood Stat [or City Stat]. City stat is not clearly explained in this document, but it is said to have been “taken to cities across the country to ensure that their government is functioning at a high level of efficiency.” However, in recent years the office’s promotion has declined due to staff and administration changes. Mayor Pugh has “vowed to revamp city Stat” to have an “even greater impact across city government.”

“Baltimore’s City Stat model has declined due to staff and administration changes.”

Isn’t that what Sociologists are for? But okay.

Their objective is to “Institute a neighborhood stat to create a partnership between government and citizens to ensure that residents of city neighborhoods lives are being improved by city services.”

I will not go through every single page of this document [the time does not allow me to], but when addressing crime and crime prevention strategies, I couldn’t help but notice a few things that were missing or not discussed in this strategy.

Things NOT mentioned:

-Food deserts!

-Lack of reliable transit. They mentioned lack of jobs [which can contribute to crime & violence], but did not mention those individuals WITH jobs, but cannot get to them in a timely manner due to horrid transportation.

-Transit equity, which includes outlets for children to ride their bicycles, and the funding of organizations that already exist to make Black bicyclists in the city afford new bikes and/or bike repair equipment. It also didn’t discuss Bikeshare, and how Bikeshare has a bigger effect on Black communities and their methods of getting around then what is being perceived. These things attribute to crime and violence also.

-Developers who only develop in the white L, while leaving those in the Black butterfly with little to nothing. This also contributes to violence and crime.

-It mentions basketball initiatives which I wholeheartedly believe can bring unity and togetherness in the community [if done right]. But I’m curious to see how the Public Safety Committee plans to branch off of that. Start of with Basketball, yes, but how else can you include those youth’s who may not be into basketball?

-How far back will the gun tracking go?

-What Psychologists, Sociologists, Dietitians and/or Public Health experts have you reached out to while planning this strategy?

-Why is defunding the police not an option in this strategy? I already know the reason why, but still. We spend over half a billion dollars on Baltimore police every year. Half a billion. Half a billion. Half a billion. Half a billion. Half a billion. And crime doesn’t seem to be ceasing. Baltimore Police plans to have at least 100 cadets on staff with at least 50% of those cadets living in Baltimore City. Only half? What are we giving you all of this money for, if crime isn’t even ceasing? If you can’t manage half a billion dollars, then maybe we need to DEFUND THE POLICE, and give some of that money to organizations who can use that money better.

-Did you reach out to any activists and/or organizers about this strategy?

-I am also very skeptical of councilmembers like Leon Pinkett and Isaac Schleifer take part in this strategy, knowing full well that they are both vehemently in approval of the one year mandatory minimum sentencing bill for those found in possession with a gun, a bill that is already proven to be ineffective, reactionary, counterproductive, and is indeed [contrary to popular belief] a “lock me up” bill.

There were some things in this strategy that I think [if done right] could be very beneficial to Black Baltimore. Talks of mentorship, Lead abatement, trauma enforced practices, the Be More Read More initiative, youth being seen as citizens, Baltimore Youth Works and blight elimination. And it wouldn’t be fair to post this, without acknowledging those things also being listed as a solution in the strategy.

But, there’s some obvious tweaking that needs to happen. Here is the link to the strategy in it’s entirety down below.

https://t.co/RUQGFcypOG

-@ShaivaughnC

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the words of Mumia Abu-Jamal…

“The earth is but one great ball. The borders, the barriers, the cages, the cells, the prisons of our lives, all originate in the false imagination of the minds of men.”

-Mumia Abu-Jamal, Live From Death Row, pg. 52

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